Happy New Year! Much as I love the holiday season, I always find I relish quiet, cool January days, settling back into work with a steaming cup of tea and plentiful (or at least more plentiful than in December) time. My WIP, the next Malcolm & Suzanne book, now has a working title, The London Gambit, and I’ve started the new year off by going over my draft of the book so.
I always say I’m the sort of writer who plots in advance, but the truth is a bit more complicated. I do need to do quite a bit of advance thinking and note taking before I can start to draft scenes. I lay out plot ideas on the wonderful Scrivener corkboard and move them around and start to build the story. But at a certain point I need to start actually drafting some of the scenes. It’s as though I need to flesh out the scenes to see how they work, how the characters interact, how different plot strands twist together. Often the very process of writing the scenes gives me additional plot ideas . And in and around writing, I’m continuing to think about the plot and making notes.
I write many of these early scenes out of order – skipping parts of the story I’m not sure of and fleshing out the scenes I know I need. Often I’m not sure where a given scene will fall in the arc of the story when I first draft it. In the past couple of weeks I’ve begun to organize the scenes I have. I spent a couple of days last week not trying to write at all, just playing with index cards on the corkboard and seeing how the story can fit together. A clear structure for the first “act” of the book emerged pretty quickly – which required some additional scenes to connect what I’d already written and sent me back to drafting new material, while I also edited the scenes I’d already written. Now I’m mulling how the second act fits together, though the turning point into Act III is clearly marked.
So for me, plotting the book and drafting scenes are inextricably intertwined, which was never more clear to me than working on The London Gambit over the past few days. While I don’t think I could write without plotting in advance, I also don’t think I could comfortably plot an entire book without fleshing out some scenes along the way. And just as stepping back and thinking about the plot gives me ideas for scenes, sometimes writing a scene gives me plot ideas.
Writers, how do you approach plotting? Has your approach changed through the years? Readers, any questions about plotting?
And to welcome in the new year, I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Dorothée written in early January 1816.